No love lost between college faculty and administration over NMC reorganization plan

May 24, 2016


The cedar clad Okerstrom Fine Arts Building is home to many of the humanities programs at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.
Credit Peter Payette

Northwestern Michigan College will combine the humanities and social science departments into a single department. The reorganization will mean the elimination of one academic chair position and an office manager.

NMC is trying to eliminate a $1.9 million gap in the coming fiscal year.

Vice President Steven Siciliano said the change would not reduce any humanities programs.

“It is simply an administrative change in order to find some economies for the sake of the budget,” he said.

Humanities at NMC includes history, philosophy, religions, the fine arts as well as video and audio production courses.

Siciliano said NMC would not be replacing a full-time history teacher retiring this year because of lack of demand for history courses.

At a board meeting last night, faculty came out to criticize the decision and how it was made.

“No faculty were involved in this decision,” said Nancy Gray, a communications instructor. “This situation provides yet another illustration of how the faculty at NMC feel that this administration does not value them.”

Teacher concerns ranged from questions of how the Okerstrom Fine Arts Building will be managed day to day to how teachers will be mentored when humanities is folded into another academic area.

Philosophy instructor Mella McCormick told the board that the department is unusually complex and needs its own manager.

“It should be noted that none of the responsibilities or duties associated with the humanities' chair position have diminished,” said McCormick, who was set to take over the job next year. “And yet the administration has made an unprecedented decision to eliminate the position.”

NMC board members had little to say about the issue. Comments from the board mainly focused on information from unknown sources that had been posted on social media before the meeting, information they said was false.

The chair of the board, Kennard Weaver blamed the teachers for those online posts.

NMC President Tim Nelson said the new department will be about the same size as the communications department and the math and science area. He said the school can make adjustments to the reorganization plan to address any problems that come up.

“There are still things to work out here,” Nelson said.

Nelson also told the board that the issue is more complicated because of ongoing negotiations with the new faculty union. The union formed last year and is negotiating a first contract.